February 25 – Australian club Western United’s decision to not incorporate ‘Melbourne’ in its name could cost Football Federation Australia (FFA) A$5 million in annual TV rights as Fox Sports seeks to challenge its obligation to increase future payments for the broadcasting deal.
Western United were founded in 2017 and from this year on the club will play in Australian football’s premier tier the A-League as part of the league’s expansion. Last week the club announced it would be called Western United Football Club, but that seemingly innocuous bit of branding may have left the door open for Fox Sports, the broadcaster of the A-League, to avoid the 9% increase of its broadcast deal in June 2021, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Fox Sports have the contractual obligation to pay $5 million more if the A-League were to introduce two new teams from Sydney and Melbourne. Western United FC play their home games at Kardinia Park in Geelong as they build their stadium and training centre in Tarneit, with the completion date set for 2021. Tarneit is about 30km out of Melbourne, but the omission of the city’s name could allow Fox Sports to argue to the FFA that club is not associated with Melbourne.
Western United FC will enter the A-League in October together with Macarthur South-West Sydney.
The argument between Fox Sports and the FFA reflects a growing unease at the broadcaster in holding the rights for Australia’s topflight. The appetite of viewers for the game has dropped with just 29,000 watching Western Sydney Wanderers’ win over Adelaide United last week.
The viewership has steadily diminished over the years. The 2012-13 season represented a peak with 75,000 the average rating as Italian star Alessandro Del Piero played for Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers joined the league. In the 2016-17 season that number dropped to 63,000 per match and last season it just topped the 50,000 mark.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1553167531labto1553167531ofdlr1553167531owedi1553167531sni@o1553167531fni1553167531